Portal puts local finances at residents’ fingertips
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday launched The Warehouse, a comprehensive online database that puts local government financial information and tens of thousands of records at a single location for taxpayer review.
Speaking in Chicago at the first stop of a three-day, seven community announcement, Topinka explained that the comptroller’s office collects financial reports from 5,200 counties, municipalities and special taxing districts across the state. In creating The Warehouse, she has made those records and other pertinent local financial information collected by her office immediately available to residents.
The Warehouse is available at warehouse.illinoiscomptroller.com.
“This user-friendly database allows taxpayers to scour our office ‘Warehouse’ from wherever they are located,” Topinka said. “There is no reason that residents should have to file Freedom of Information requests or sort through mountains of paper to see how their money is being spent. That information should be at their fingertips, and that’s what The Warehouse accomplishes.”
Warehouse visitors are able to search records by report type, unit of government or community name. Once a local government is selected, users will be taken to a landing page where they may view a snapshot of local finances, annual financial reports and audits. The site also offers a “compare data” feature allowing visitors to see how one government stacks up against another.
The unveiling of The Warehouse follows Topinka’s launch last year of a similar transparency website for state finances, The Ledger, which allows taxpayers to click their way through everything from the state’s daily receipts and bill backlog numbers to state agency budgets and an employee salary database.
Both initiatives are part of Topinka’s ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability in state and local government. In 2012, she successfully pushed for legislation requiring local governments to file annual financial reports electronically and implementing penalties for late reports. Last spring, she worked to pass similar legislation for TIF Districts.
“The fact is that government acts more responsibly when it knows people are watching,” Topinka said. “The Warehouse builds on the tremendous success of The Ledger – and let me assure you, we’re not done yet.”